"THERE CAN be too much truth in any relationship."
So quipped Maggie Smith, in one of her dry, delicious asides, on the season four premiere of "Downton Abbey" last Sunday.
These days, after the success of any series, people love to be argumentative and wildly confrontational -- something picked up from reality TV no doubt. Fans get on the IMDB boards or other places to vent and declare such and such show has "jumped the shark," or otherwise disappointed. It's scary; so much anger invested in make-believe.
SO I'll speak only for myself and say that "Downton" hasn't yet jumped a shark, or even a minnow. The two-hour opener was rife with conflict, drama and humor. It still manages to sweep one away with its machinations, despairs and humorous bickering, upstairs and downstairs.
Aside from Dame Maggie (and that's a whopper of an aside) I particularly admire Michelle Dockery as the now-widowed Lady Mary Crawley. That she is able to invest her character with so many sympathetic qualities, along with her well-known negative ones, is quite a balancing act. Lady Mary is the kind of woman one loves to hate, or can easily detest outright. But actress Dockery and writer Julian Fellowes know exactly when to rein in the sharpness and snobbery, exposing the warmth and confusion underneath.
Every cast member is spot on, as usual. I'm so glad "Downton Abbey" is back. We need to watch programming in which people speak in complete sentences and the worst expletive one might hear is "damn" or "b---h" (only once on the latter. And Mr. Bates was awfully put upon by his shrewish, now-dead wife.)
FROM THE sublime to the ... still sublime. I do mean Chris Pine, whose blue, blue eyes captured me on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter. Pine has been on a steady climb for a number of years. (The Hollywood Reporter began its piece noting, just a bit cruelly, that in 2005, he co-starred with Lindsay Lohan in "Just My Luck." She was still considered one of the most promising young actresses in Hollywood. He was unknown. Now, she is, as THR put it "trawling for club appearances" and Pine is possibly on the verge of the kind of stardom Lohan threw away.)
"Star Trek" fans know Pine as the sexy new Captain Kirk in the re-boot of that franchise. And his position as a heartthrob is solid. When you Google his name, the second thing to pop up is "Chris Pine shirtless."
But the big test comes later this month when Paramount releases "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit." He will be stepping into shoes previously filled by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck, to varying degrees of believability. Pine will be the youngest Ryan, a character made famous in print by the late writer Tom Clancy.
What I like about Pine -- aside from his meltingly sexy good looks -- is his apparent disregard for the Hollywood scene and self-promotion; also his distaste for social media. He says, "I find it to be a waste of time. The Internet is so caustic; just a place where people get to spew nonsense and bull---t." Still, I wouldn't mind being "friended" by Mr. Pine.
"Shadow Recruit" opens on Jan. 17.
OH, SPEAKING of the Internet spawning careless language, what are we to make of "Girls" star Lena Dunham chiming in on the Shia LaBeouf skywriting apology to ... everybody he's plagiarized recently. (If you don't know about this copycatting story, it's really too boring to fill you in.) Anyway, Dunham tweeted, "I have always felt, utterly, and unchangeably, that only sociopaths sky-write."
This is what I (and also Chris Pine, my next "husband") mean. Has Shia met Lena and angered her in some way? Is there history? "Sociopath" is a fairly extreme word. Did the talented Ms. Dunham have nothing better to do with two minutes of her time than insert herself into a story that had nothing to do with her? Did she just learn the word "sociopath" and was trying it out?
I sometimes curse the day Twitter was invented, and frankly, the millions who use it should curse that day, too.
It seems to bring nothing but bad news to all. (I'll throw cellphone photos into the mix as well; keep your nude bathroom/bedroom/gym-room selfies to yourself. You might want to run for office some day. Those toned abs will bite you in the tush, for sure! Unless you've sent around photos of your tush. Then just forget about that Senate seat.)
However, everybody else seems to love Twitter. So who am I to judge, quibble or ... be such a twit? It can be useful tool. Such a pity so many "tools" use it.
I ASSOCATE Bob Fosse so much with New York that in my recent review of Sam Wasson's great big biography of the late legend, I placed his death in Manhattan when he collapsed on the street. In fact, Fosse was in Washington, D.C. He had just come from giving a long pep talk to the cast of a new show he was mounting.
Let me say again that "Fosse," published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is the most entertaining, colorful, intriguing celeb bio of the year. So far. We'll see what the next 11 months bring.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
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